I am up at seven, taking down my tent, and repacking my car. While I am in the middle of repacking, the tent down, Alexander comes out with coffee in hand and asks whether I would like some.
I’m going to give you just enough details so that you will understand why I am still in Costa Rica although I had planned on being in Nicaragua today.
A was very friendly and wanted to know about my life. Everyone is curious about a crazy old gringo (for Mary) driving though Central America with two bikes on his car. The policia rarely ask for my license—they get distracted by the bikes and usually want to know how much they cost.
Soon (while I’m trying to pack) the conversation swerves and A wants to give me traveling advice. We work on the map and he insists that I should take some time out and drive to Fortuna to see Volcan (volcano) Arenal, the highest point in Costa Rica. Fortuna is considerably out of my way, but A says the drive is the most beautiful drive in Costa Rica. Although I had wanted to make Nicaragua today, I consider taking the Fortuna trip. After all, it really won’t make much of a difference if I arrive in Haddonfield a week early or a week late. I’m starting to get used to the fact that I don’t have to be anywhere anytime. This is weird. Deep inside, something nags at me—that I should have a destination, a purpose, a schedule, a way of saying, there, I got that done today. This is crazy; deep conditioning.
Silvia comes out with a huge breakfast for me: eggs, ham, tortillas, rice, beans, watermelon, mangos, and coffee. Out of duty, I eat everything but the watermelon and mangos. I’m just stuffed and can get only one piece of watermelon down.
While we’re having breakfast, A’s brother and sister-in-law come out. Like A&S, they are curious about my life and my having driven down here with a dog. By this time, Lola has worked her way into everyone’s heart and has the run of the house. She is constantly being petted and loves it here.
This is a really nice morning for me. I love trying to communicate in Spanish, and the entire family is patient and helpful, helping me with my word choice and pronunciation. Other travelers/campers report the same experience. You learn more and experience more by camping. You get to use your Spanish, whatever it is worth. Hotels don’t give you the same experience—you get a room and close the door with a little conversation at dinner time. I wish I could camp in someone’s yard through the rest of Central America.
So I say I’m going to head for Fortuna and ask for specific directions. But since A’s brother and sister-in-law were going to San Ramon, the last city before Fortuna, they asked if they could come with me to San Ramon and then show me the way to Fortuna.
So I say my good-byes (this was really a GOOD experience), get A&S’s emails, and the four of us pack into the car and head off, Lola sitting on the brother-in-law’s lap in the front seat.
A was right. After about twenty minutes, we hit the high mountains. I use the time to endlessly chatter about everything, about Sarah, my children, my struggles with being alone, and they are very helpful, asking questions. They know they are helping me improve my Spanish. I also learn about their lives, his car accident and paralyzed arm, their children and grandchildren. The time and beautiful drive slides by.
I wrote in yesterday’s log about my drive from the cabin outside San Isidro; it was beautiful. This drive is that to the tenth power. I have a hard time keeping my eyes on the road—which is necessary because the road is barely wide enough for two cars to slink by each other. And it twists and twists and twists. Average speed is 15 mph. A part of my mind thinks, this is going to be a long trip; the other part of my mind is in the now: this is the trip.
I leave the brother and sister-in-law in San Ramon. I hate to see them go. I simply enjoy meeting people.
But they exit, warm good-byes. The brother-in-law wants to take Lola with him—she has been on his lap for two hours. And I continue on.
If anything, the drive gets more beautiful. Jungle, high mountains, endlessly twisting roads. I love driving. I can’t explain it. I love driving through beautiful country I haven’t known. I think I have become a traveler. (Zoe—pay attention—this is what you did to me).
This has to be the best bicycling and motorcycling road in the world (that message is for Vickie). When I first saw Volcan Arenal, I was a bit disappointed, because the upper third was in the clouds. Fortuna and the surrounding areas are high tourist scenes—and that’s a bit on the downside (ignoring my identity as a tourist), but the towns are charming and the landscape beautiful, a volcano hiding it’s top third in the white clouds sweeping by.
It’s about noon. I could stay, I think, at one of the many eco lodges in the area (most hotels and lodges here seem to be eco-something), but one, I want to keep driving—I’m in a driving mood; and two, it’s too early to stop. That’s the retrograde part of me that thinks I need to get somewhere by sometime.
So I drive on. I love these thin, twisting roads, the sides drenched in jungle growth.
I reach Arenal at about one. This is a charming town. I stop at a German bakery and get a pastry, delicious. I take Lola for a walk: she pees and poops, and I pee. I think, I should stay here for the day. There are several cabinas that look pet-friendly, but I decide to drive on. I would like to hit Canas by the end of the day, putting me within three hours of the dreaded border.
After about a half-hour of driving, I see a sign for a B&B, swiss chalet. I decide to ask, drive up a steep driveway and am met by three great danes, one young and aggressive. I shout, Hola, and an older man (about my age) comes out. I tell him I’m looking for a room and I have a dog, but he seemed to miss this conversation. He wanted to talk about Trump (he is a transplanted gringo). I thought I had been clear: I wanted a room and I had a dog—but he didn’t get it. After about twenty minutes of political nonsense, he is surprised to find out that I was asking for a room. He told me they couldn’t accept dogs.
I leave presto. I drive for another twenty minutes and see a sign en el campo por una Buena B&B. I ask la mujer, a middle-aged indigenous woman with a soft, pleasant face, about dogs; no hay problema, Cecillia dice. $35.00 con el desayuno. Es muy bueno. The right choice.
I have a wonderful afternoon with Lola—this place has expansive ground, beautifully landscaped with an ancient tennis court overgrown with weeds and black mold farther down the hill. It looks like a court one would discover in the jungle where the Aztecs played. Then beyond the tennis court lies Laguna de Arenal, a huge lake formed by a dam and encircled by volcanoes and mountains.
Lola is very happy running free, chasing a coconut down the hill and bringing it back up to me. She loves to run—she looks as if she is laughing when she runs. Over to the right lies another area with a pond, which Lola jumps in and splashes around. She loves to hit the water with her paws and try to bite the resulting froth.
I go back to our room and write until the days begins to fade. I go out onto my patio and play my guitar, singing, “I Go Where I Want To.” My room is very private, on the lower of a two-deck hotel/restaurant. I think there are only about four rooms in this hotel, and I haven’t seen others, so I thought while singing that I was singing only to myself (and Lola, who actually seems to listen). But when I finished my song, I heard clapping from the deck above me—the restaurant deck. I shout, Gracias, and a thin, handsome, young Hispanic man comes down to find out who is playing the music. He doesn’t speak English, but we manage to combine our languages, and he asks me to come up to join him and his amiga and play more songs.
His amiga (actually, the woman, an internet entrepreneur, lives with a different man—these two are only friends) is a beautiful woman, gringa, in her mid-thirties. Her beauty lies in her open face, not the kind of beauty you see on TV—just a very pleasant, open face, no make-up. We have a few beers, and we tell each other our stories, mixing English and Spanish so that we can all be in the conversation. This is the thing about traveling: people want to learn about each other, and I suppose because we know we probably won’t meet again, we are very easy about opening up about our pasts, our struggles, and where we think we’re going. This is a lovely, soft evening.
They leave—they were here only for beers on the patio (they live near-by), and I have spaghetti and wine, sitting alone on the patio with Lola, the lights from a small village shining across the lake. This is the perfect end to a perfect day. Enough to make one cry.Goto Day 9: Time